James Huckins: Missionary, church planter, and Baylor Founding Father
Rev. James Huckins came to what was then the Republic of Texas in 1840 — the first Baptist missionary to Texas, sent to plant churches throughout the region. But he didn’t stop there; he also helped plant what would become the world’s largest Baptist institution of higher learning.
While Huckins isn’t as familiar a name to most Bears as Judge R.E.B. Baylor, he (along with Baylor and Rev. William Tryon) played a pivotal role in the founding of our university. In 1841, the Texas Baptist Education Society was created, with Baylor as president, Tryon as vice-president, and Huckins on the board of managers; one of its aims was to promote religious education. Invasions by Mexican troops kept the Society from getting started in earnest until 1844, when it began to move ahead on establishing a Baptist university in Texas.
As what would become Baylor worked to get off the ground, Huckins accepted the charge to raise the necessary funds. Between 1841-45, he toured the country as Baylor’s first full-time fundraiser, securing the money needed to help build the campus in Independence. Once that task was complete, he served as a charter Trustee of Baylor University; he also continued to help with fundraising off and on well into the 1850s.
Born in New Hampshire, Huckins graduated from Brown University in 1832 and ministered across the Northeast until coming to Texas in 1840. He later served three terms as president of the Texas Baptist Association before leaving the state for South Carolina in 1859; he died there four years later at the age of 56.
Today, Huckins is remembered as one of Baylor’s three Founding Fathers, along with Judge Baylor and Rev. William Tryon. Huckins and Tryon are recognized on campus by two pillars, one on either side of the Judge Baylor statue. Each year on Founders Day (Feb. 1), the Baylor family celebrates the extraordinary work done by these three leaders.
Sic ’em, Rev. James Huckins!